ROB ELLIS: OK, we're back. Derrick, we seem to only be focused on the odd years in this episode – 2013, 2017, and now we find ourselves in 2019!
DERRICK GUNN: It's as if the rivalry, at least from the Eagles' side, thrived in the odd years ... hmmmm ... 1979, 1987, 1989, 1991 ... by the way, take a listen to those earlier episodes. You might notice a pattern. Anyway. 2019, it seems like yesterday. People were roaming free without a care in the world.
ROB ELLIS: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle welcomed Archie. The U.S. women's soccer team won the 2019 FIFA World Cup. Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Toy Story 4 all broke records!
DERRICK GUNN: The 'Boys had Jason Garett as head coach, and Doug Pederson was directing the Birds.
ROB ELLIS: The first game against Dallas was Week 7. The Eagles were sitting at three wins and four losses. They had come off a defeat to the Vikings and now they were headed to Jerry World to take on the Cowboys.
DAVE SPADARO: OK, so in October, the Cowboys squash, I mean literally squash, the Eagles. And the enduring memory is Ezekiel Elliott bowling over Malcolm Jenkins. He had 111 yards and a rushing touchdown. It was a game where the Eagles had a touchdown taken away from them. Carson Wentz had a very, very poor game. And the Eagles were pissed because they felt that was a representative game. They didn't feel the Cowboys were in a different class.
DERRICK GUNN: It did not go well for the Birds. They eeked out 10 points. To this day, defensive end Brandon Graham still has strong feelings about the team's poor performance.
BRANDON GRAHAM: It was embarrassing. That first game, we got blown up. It was bad and I knew I had my worst game as an Eagle against them. That was one of those games where I was hurting and trying to push through. And it was even worse because they juked me on one play, boy. It was like one-on-one, am I gonna make the tackle? I made him come back inside, but it didn't look good on TV.
ROB ELLIS: The final was 37-10, Cowboys. Well, that thrashing may have just stirred the need for payback.
DAVE SPADARO: By the time the Cowboys came to Lincoln financial field, I think the defense remembered that week. There were a lot of player conversations and meetings, and the idea was that we are not going to let the Cowboys come in here and stomp on us.
DOUG PEDERSON: You know they got us the last time and hey, you know that they kicked our tail then. They had a great game plan and you know we listened. We just got to come prepared each day this week and study the tape. Coaches have got to have a great game plan obviously and they've got to empower players, who have to understand the game plan.
BRANDON GRAHAM: For me, man, I just want to go out there and put up a better performance because I wasn't happy with the first one. I think everybody could say the same. Because the way we went out there and played, you could tell that everybody wants to make it right.
ROB ELLIS: Retribution was something the Eagles franchise had experimented with, but only a little. In the late '80s, Buddy Ryan was known for his scorekeeping and sending hard-hitting messages. But this more modern Eagles team had a different idea of payback. Think death by a thousand papercuts. You don't really know its impact until it's too late.
DERRICK GUNN: It's December 22, 2019 and we have another late-in-the-season showdown for the rivals. Eagles fans are here for it. Dave Spadaro again.
DAVE SPADARO: It's no secret that Eagles fans consider the Dallas Cowboys public enemy number 1,2,3,4,5. I mean, so many times I had coaches say, I came to Philadelphia and the first thing I heard is, "Hey, good luck, coach. Make sure you beat the Cowboys twice."
DERRICK GUNN: We have heard that before!
DAVE SPADARO: And so by the time that game started late in the day, people are partying and people are ready to beat the Cowboys and nothing matters more than beating the Cowboys. And this is why the NFL sets up the Eagles and the Cowboys late in the season almost every year. It's a great rivalry.
ROB ELLIS: I cannot imagine Dave Spadaro and Kristi Scales would agree on much, but here we are.
KRISTI SCALES: That's the genius of the NFL right is to put the two rivals at the end of the year, because with Washington and the New York Giants really not doing much in the decade, it just made absolute sense that it was either going to be the Eagles or the Cowboys. And that's pretty much the way it was for the whole decade. And the NFL knew exactly what they were doing in setting up those regular-season finales.
ROB ELLIS: Kickoff was at 4:25 PM at the Linc. It was 47 degrees, rather warm for this late in the season. Close to 70,000 fans filled the stadium. The Cowboys won the toss. First 15 minutes, Jake Elliott kicks a 36-yard field goal. (It's) 3-0 Eagles.
DERRICK GUNN: The defense was paying extra attention to Ezekiel Elliott.
DAVE SPADARO: Every time Ezekiel Elliott, who had over 100 yards in the October matchup, carried the football, you could just see the Eagles' defense swarming to him, carrying the message from 70,000 fans at the Linc saying don't let Elliott get up after a big gain and give me that "feed me sign" that he does that drives people crazy.
ROB ELLIS: Could the Eagles' defense keep Elliott from feasting?
BRANDON GRAHAM: I just remember it was all about; we know what they were going to run. We know what they do. It's just all about who is gonna want it at the end of the day.
ROB ELLIS: Still in the first quarter, Carson Wentz completes a 6-yard pass to Dallas Goedert. It's a touchdown! The Eagles lead 10-0.
DERRICK GUNN: The second quarter is underway. The Cowboys' kicker, Kai Forbath, hits a 49-yard field goal. Then right before halftime, Forbath nails another field goal. The score sits at 10-6 Eagles going into halftime.
ROB ELLIS: It's the third quarter and the Birds and the 'Boys are ready for the second half. It's anybody's game for now ...
DAVE SPADARO: Going into this game, I felt that the Eagles would have to win an ugly game. The lack of weapons offensively hindered explosive plays, big gains, and challenging matchups. So it was a Carson-don't-turn-the-football-over offense. Let's control the clock. Let's move the sticks. Let's go up and down the field. And it just wasn't pretty. It was just kind of old-fashioned, grind-it-up football.
ROB ELLIS: Dave Spadaro is right. This game wasn't the nail-biter of 2013. It wasn't the lopsided victory of 2017. But it was everything the Eagles needed it to be. In the third quarter, Miles Sanders found the end zone, bringing the score to 17-6.
DERRICK GUNN: Dallas made one more field goal in the fourth quarter and then it was over.
ROB ELLIS: The final score was 17-9, Eagles.
DERRICK GUNN: Dallas was held to – oh wait, I can use my new favorite word here – TOUCHDOWNLESS! But the Eagles played the way they needed to secure the win!
BRANDON GRAHAM: It was just a mentality that game, man. Everybody wants to win the NFC East. And this was an opportunity for us to keep it going and beat the Cowboys, who everybody loves, boasting about who's gonna win that year. We came in with just our attitude, just making sure that we don't go back, go out there, and embarrass ourselves like we did when we went down there.
DAVE SPADARO: And the number that sticks out, Dallas was 3-of-14 on third downs. That's huge. Eagles were able to keep the Cowboys' offense off the field. And while the Eagles didn't score a lot of points, they controlled the clock. They had the football for 36 minutes and 12 seconds, grinding it out. Control football, small ball, not a lot of exciting plays. It was not a game of excitement. It was a game of let's figure out a way to win our way. And in the case of the Philadelphia Eagles in December of 2019, is there anything more Philadelphia than blue collar? It was a blue-collar win in a blue-collar town against the despised Dallas Cowboys. So maybe at the end of the day an ugly win on paper and it was the beauty in the eye of the beholder because it kept the Eagles alive, pushing them into the following week where they clinched the NFC East.
KRISTI SCALES: And it was just like, not again. Not to these guys and of all the teams. Sure there's so much respect for the Eagles' defense. But it's like, why was it always the Eagles to knock the Cowboys out in that final game? And for the Eagles to advance, that's what really hurt.
ROB ELLIS: The Eagles went on to defeat the New York Giants on the road the following week. The team clinched the NFC East title! But those feelings of euphoria were short-lived. The Birds lost to another bird team, the Seahawks, in the Wild Card game. But their December win at the Linc put Dallas in second place and out of the playoffs – exactly where the fans want them to be!
DERRICK GUNN: So Rob, it seems like we've literally run out of time.
ROB ELLIS: I know! We have played one season in this new decade. And as far as we see it in rivalry games, the Birds and the 'Boys are tied 1-1! The Eagles organization has nothing but respect for the Cowboys. They continue to push our players and coaches to play better and smarter. And I have no doubt that the 'Boys will continue to get under our fans' skin like no other team in the NFL. It really is the fans who drive this rivalry and keep the Birds flying! So, with that in mind, in our next episode, we turn our attention to some of our most well-known Eagles fans.